ICONIC department stores have disappeared from the town centre in recent years.

The former Beales and House of Fraser sites remain boarded up and empty.

Other big-name retailers to have closed for good include H&M, Wilko and Lidl.

Businesses have been dealt blow after blow having struggled through the Covid pandemic and now the cost-of-living crisis.

The Tory MP for Bournemouth West, Conor Burns, previously said that in the town centre, there was a sense the beach is increasingly “the jewel in a place that no longer has a crown”.

But now, shoppers and residents have now voiced their views and suggestions as to how to reverse the fortunes of the declining high street.

Bournemouth Echo: Sarah MartinSarah Martin (Image: Daily Echo)

Sarah Martin, 60, a composer from Bournemouth, said: “It's sad to have seen the change in Bournemouth over the last few years.

“It's been happening very gradually, I suppose, over a long time, but we've noticed it a lot more, obviously, in recent years.

“It's probably down to many things, really. I think we just try ourselves to support our local shops in the area that we live, and we feel in a way that's the best contribution that we can make at the moment is to try to do that.”


Her husband, Graham a 65-year-old artist, added: “I think it's very sad. An awful lot of people are obviously struggling. The economy at the moment is in a bit of a mess.

“I think the government has a lot to answer for. I think a lot of what's happening should have been seen coming.

“Unfortunately, there are high-interest rates because of the inflation that is killing people.

“Literally, people have got so little money in their pockets because of that and unfortunately, I think there is a little bit of economic gloom still ahead of us.

Bournemouth Echo: Graham MartinGraham Martin (Image: Daily Echo)

He added: “I think it's within the power of the council to regenerate this area. It can be done. It just needs regeneration, imagination.

“Bournemouth is one of Britain's favourite seaside towns, and what's this doing at the moment for the tourists?

Mayra Lopez is originally from the Canary Islands but ‘arrived in Bournemouth seven years ago’.

The 30-year-old said the town is ‘not like it used to be’ and described it as sad and upsetting.

Before, she said: “It was amazing because it was full of good vibes and people smiling, there were a lot of shops and a lot of options. Right now, there is nothing here now you just see people doing drugs, drunk people.”

Mayra thinks one of the solutions is ‘just to put down the rent a little bit’.

Bournemouth Echo: Mayra LopezMayra Lopez (Image: Mayra Lopez)

She believes the only reason people come to the town centre is for the beach.

Mayra added: “There could be a proper shopping centre where there is more options to buy different things and to enjoy it and do different stuff.

Meanwhile, Joaquim Soares, 76, a hospitality worker, also believes landlords should slash their rent rates.

He said: “Well, it is quite clear that the property the shops are in belongs to somebody else and the shops have to pay quite a few thousand pounds a year to stay there.

“Due to the difficulties with Covid, the business has gone completely down.

“The shops struggle to get money to pay for rent so they have to close as they can't afford to stay there.

“You come to the town centre and you find quite a few shops are closed now, so it's not nice, but it will be nice if the owners of the properties put down the rent down a bit for companies to be there.

“I think things will improve, hopefully, but it will take a few more years.

“The solution is for the owners of the property to put the rent down for people to be able to pay.

"If a few more shops close then the owners of the properties will wake up and say ‘oh come on, let's put the prices down.’

“It doesn't look nice, people have to close because the owners of the properties are very greedy."

Bournemouth Echo: Joaquim SoaresJoaquim Soares (Image: Daily Echo)

Christine Praoline, 65, a retired care worker from Ensbury Park said when there were Beales and Debenhams stores ‘it was much better’.

“A lot of my friends don't come down here now because they said there's Primark and some cafes but there's nothing else there so they go to Castlepoint,” she said.

Christine Jones, 64, sewing machinist from Boscombe, believes there should be more independent little shops, not just coffee shops and more money spent on the town.

She said: “I realise that with the [economy] all the big names are coming out, but Bournemouth is so diverse with lots of different people, money spent on the front is great but you need something to attract people in, not just takeaways and fast food, you need something else.”

Bournemouth Echo: Kirsten JonesKirsten Jones (Image: Daily Echo)

Kirsten Jones, a 19-year-old store assistant, said she doesn’t often go to the town centre and tends to go to CastlePoint Shopping Centre instead.

She said: “There is just not a lot to do. I get bored after I go to two shops and then I want to go home, it’s a waste of money coming here and then going home.”

She thinks more shops would bring ‘a lot more tourists’ and that there should be more things for families to do.

The Daily Echo has been speaking to residents, shopkeepers, councillors and more concerning the state of the high street.
Scores of shops have closed for good, meanwhile, big-name retailers have moved elsewhere.
Bournemouth has been described as the jewel of the south coast, but what does the future hold?
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